The recent (and continuing) strikes in France with their subsequent acts of violence, provocation and just general unrest, set me thinking about French social behavior. I am not talking about the politics of these demonstrations nor about who is right or wrong – there are plenty of other blogs that are doing that.
I am talking about how the French bring up their kids and what happens when these kids turn into adults. Can their childhood education possibly have something to do with their grown-up comportment?
For years, I have participated in conversations with other Parisian mothers who stand by the strictness of table manners in bringing up their babies. They are proud of the fact that their children do not throw tantrums at the dinner table. They sit; they eat and they are not the center of attention. I have seen mothers slap their children in public for slight misbehavior and no one even blinks. (In the US, social services would have been on speed dial!) The kids request permission to leave the table. They go to bed and stay in bed when they are supposed to. The parents have them under control and do not feel guilty about disciplining them. But, then the kids grow up; turn into adults and regress like crazy.
When I watch the evening news and see the intense kicking and screaming of French demonstrators and police alike, I can’t help thinking of temper tantrums. The French are acting like toddlers in adult clothing. When a 2-year-old has a fit, it is considered normal.
He is testing his limits with these outbursts. Since he cannot yet master any language, physical wrath is common and is considered a normal part of child development. Parents have to remain calm; be consistent in their treatment of these tantrums and NOT let the child win. They are instructed to wait out the storm – let the kid storm off in a huff. They try to reason with him only when he stops all that negative wrath and animosity. An angry child does not get a place at the dinner table. An angry child gets a time-out.
Following this temper tantrum theory, I think that as French children grow (or not) into adults, the state replaces their parents and all the temper tantrums that were repressed in their childhood are now directed at the government (their financial provider). They expect Mom and Pop to provide them with this and that. They are used to their paternal government privileges and don’t want to lose them. They certainly don’t want their parents to divorce. There’s no way they could stand having a step-dad from the private sector. They want their world to continue just as it is. Safe and secure and with them as the center of everybody’s attention.
I did a bit of research on what causes angry “episodes” in toddlers. It seems that a feeling of intense anxiety, the kind you experience when you can’t get what you want, makes their bodies release cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone. That makes them breathe faster; increases their blood pressure and causes confused thinking. They literally become “explosive” at the slightest provocation from their family and the world around them. This sounds just like what’s happening in the streets of Paris.
The Parisians are acting out; melting down in perfect imitation of early childhood tantrums. When the unionist “toddlers” come to the negotiating table,
the government parents can’t tell them to go to their room and come back when they are ready to talk sensibly. These “parents” must stay calm and try to reason with them. But, that doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked in the past and it isn’t working now. The average child temper fit lasts for 3 minutes and, when it’s over, the tiny tot doesn’t remember anything. Unfortunately, the French adult-child fit seems to be lasting a lot longer and spreading like a virus.
I am sure that the government Mom and Pop will “cave”; they will give in to their toddlers’ demands during any mediation. As the unionist spoiled brats kick, scream and literally turn those negotiating tables upside down, the government parents will do what they have always done – give the children what they want so they can have a peaceful meal and/or get a good night’s sleep. And they’ll do it quickly – right before the European Soccer Cup starts in Paris on June 10th.